Pacifiers and Preschoolers

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For some children, a pacifier is an item that they treasure. While pacifiers can be helpful for young children, at some point it becomes less of a necessity and more of a hindrance. Take a look at how pacifiers can affect your child’s teeth and oral health as they grow.

1. The Effect Pacifiers Have On Teeth

For the most part, children under the age of 2 can use a pacifier with very little effects on their oral health. , as it can cause oral structural changes.

The structural changes that could occur with long-term pacifier use (after age 2) include:

  • Misalignment of upper and lower jaw.
  • Narrower roof of mouth.
  • Slanting down of the top front teeth.
  • Tilting in of the bottom front teeth.

Pacifier use has also been associated with regular ear infections. If a child is beginning to learn to talk, having a pacifier in their mouth could cause speech or pronunciation issues in the future.

2. How to Wean a Child Off of a Pacifier

Some children can become very attached to their pacifiers and have a difficult time giving it up. If you would rather not try the “cold turkey” approach (simply taking it away from them for good) here are some tips to help you.

  • Dip the tip in vinegar. The flavor of vinegar tends to be off putting to a child. The vinegar will make the pacifier less appealing so your child won’t miss it as much once it is taken away. They may even choose to give it up because they no longer enjoy it.
  • Give away the pacifiers. Many children are encouraged to give their pacifier away. It is a way to practice being unselfish and for particularly compassionate children it is easier to give up the pacifier they love it they believe that it will make another person happy. You could have your child give their pacifier away to their dentist at their next appointment  (ask the dentist first). Pediatric dentists understand children’s love of pacifiers and should be helpful in this process. Simply recycling the pacifier is also a viable option.
  • Limit the use to only when they are sleeping, then eventually limit use altogether. Pacifiers can act as an emotional safeguard for children. Gradually limiting the use of the pacifier will help your child learn that they don’t need it to feel safe or comfortable.
  • Put ALL pacifiers in a place where the child won’t get them. Try putting them in a plastic bucket and on a shelf that is out of reach for your kiddos. This will help prevent any accidental “relapse.”
  • Pierce the tip or cut the nipple shorter (throw away cut-off pieces). This will take away the satisfaction from sucking, since it won’t work as designed.

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